My friend Jim (last name withheld unless he comments and says it’s okay) posted this newspaper clipping to his Facebook feed recently.
At first I thought it was cool to see something from back when I was regularly playing down on the St. Louis Landing with my friends and going to see shows featuring Spoondrift, like the one I’ve highlighted. Then I realized WHICH show that was…and I knew I’d be writing about it soon.
My memory was triggered by “Messy Marvin” being listed in that ad. Spoondrift only played with them that once, and the name stuck in my mind. (I don’t blame them for what happened–please don’t misread that. You just remember some band names better than others.) When you go to enough shows and have enough of your own gigs, they sometimes blend together into one ugly mess of “I think that was the time when…” stories. But I remember every moment of that night. I can’t remember what year it was, but I’d put it like 1995 or 96. I could probably do the research, but what does it matter? I was 15 or 16. That’s enough.
Spoondrift was a band that was popular among the crowd I ran with in high school. They were sort of “our” band. Good songs. Good friends. Always a lot of fun to be had at their shows–and believe it or not, it was a relatively safe environment at that time. We were the age where you’re supposed to experiment with things, but the worst most of us did was smoke (sorry, 1996 Dad). A few folks dabbled with other things, but for the most part the group I ran with didn’t get particularly rowdy until after I’d stopped hanging out with them and thought following Jesus meant abandoning everything fun (sorry, 1996 Derek.) We went to concerts together, played our own music together, and had each other’s backs. It was what your teen years should be like.
That night was a train-wreck.
It was raining. Of course it was. And in November, that was a COLD rain. That might have been the coldest I’ve ever been. I remember that we’d all gotten there a little early, as was our habit. We liked the shows and we liked hanging out. We’d been to the Bernard Pub more than a few times by then and knew the drill. You’d get there a little early, hang out, get in, and form a mosh pit. It was usually clockwork.
That night, I found out later, the owner was in a bad mood. One of the bands (history has forgotten which) had promised to bring in a bunch of outside money and failed to do so. The owner wasn’t happy and was thinking of cancelling the whole thing. Cooler heads prevailed and he’d decided to open the place after-all… Two hours late.
Remember…it was raining. And dark. And we were teenagers on the streets of St. Louis. We were all very pissed off and so cold we were numb to anything and everything. About an hour prior to the doors opening, I remember that a couple of us got into an argument out in front of the place and I stormed off and stood under an awning across the street that was just barely blocking the rain and not at all blocking the cold. I couldn’t feel my ears or feet. I’d had the presence of mind to swipe somebody else’s cigarettes from them (sorry, 1996 Somebody) and was standing there, cold, angry, and freezing. The cigarette was the only thing keeping me warm. I was smoking for heat more than the sake of smoking.
It was so bad that when a complete stranger who was sitting in his van looked over and saw me standing there, he yelled over, “Hey! You want to sit in my van a while?” And I said yes. I willingly got into a stranger’s windowless van rather than return to my friends. Don’t do that, kids. It turned out okay though. I was completely safe and the guy was nice–he just saw a cold kid and offered him kindness. So I guess maybe only SOMETIMES do that, kids…
Anyway…the doors opened and we all swarmed in. I remember being in the bathroom, just running scalding hot water over my hands and face trying to re-gain any feeling. My feet still hurt thinking about how cold they were. That night might be the reason why I’ve never really minded cold…because I don’t think I’ve been THAT cold ever since.
The show went on. And I still think that if the rain hadn’t been a factor and it had JUST been the late start, we all would have been okay with the release of just the show. But as it was…things quickly exploded.
There were at least two serious fights of which I’m aware. A window got broken. I think that’s the night the place got its toilet broken, too. Literally broken–not CLOGGED–someone broke the fucking BOWL. I know it was definitely broken, but it might have been that way when we got there, I can’t be 100% on that.
While Spoondrift was on, things got REALLY insane. One of the fans of one of the other bands somehow got his hand split open. One of the guys from Spoondrift says the guy was “shanked” with a broken bottle, but I think he might have been the one who smashed the window. Regardless, the guy’s hand was bleeding profusely, and while Spoondrift was on stage, we could all see him off to the side of the stage, pounding one bloody fist into the other hand, trying to make the bleeding worse.
The guy came out onto the stage and grabbed the microphone out of the singer’s hands. He was obviously drunk (at minimum) and started rambling about who-knows-what and I remember that he mentioned “Messy Marvins” by name several times (although he was definitely not in that band, as evidenced by his addition of the “s”). Blood was getting all over the stage, and a couple of us were sizing up if we could take the guy down if he hit anybody in the band, as we suspected he would…but he didn’t do that. What he did was start gutturally chanting, and then throwing blood onto the audience.
That guy…was trying to summon Satan… I’m not kidding.
He somehow got off the stage and the show continued. As soon as the band was done, I know we piled most of their stuff directly into their vehicles in case a quick getaway was needed. A lot of us then chose to stay outside after that–debating if we should all get AIDS tests and seeing if his blood was on anybody’s skin. In the cold. In the rain. And yet we still preferred that to staying inside and potentially dealing with hellfire and the arrival of the Beast.
The lead singer of Spoondrift told me he bumped into that guy about a week later in a bookstore and asked him what that was all about. To my knowledge, the guy just stated, “I lost a pint of blood that night” and wandered off.
…and that’s how I almost met Satan that one time.